It is an honour and a privilege for me to accompany the Government of Sierra Leone and CSE construction company from Senegal in the signature of the works contract for the Bandajuma – Liberia-border Road and Bridges project. On behalf of the EU Delegation, I congratulate all those involved in bringing this project to its implementation phase: the Ministry of Works, Housing and Infrastructure, the Sierra Leone Roads Authority and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
The EU has been one of the principal contributors to the development of infrastructure in Sierra Leone and will continue to support the government to deliver on the infrastructure pillar of the Agenda for Prosperity. With this important project, most of the regional road between Guinea and Liberia will have been rehabilitated with grants from the European Union during the last ten years. This includes the following:
- from Masiaka to Lunsar, then to Makeni and continuing to Kabala- the road from Rogbere to the Guinea border (completed in 2011);
- from Masiaka to Bo (completed in 2010);
- and now from Bandajuma to the Liberian border.
This new project is the largest infrastructure project funded by the EU in Sierra Leone. The signature of this contract is an important achievement not least because the tendering and award process were carried out during the recent Ebola crisis. The construction works to be carried out by the Senegalese Contractor CSE amounts to 67.6 million euros and will last 36 months. It includes 100 km of paved road, the reconstruction of two major bridges of 225 metres (over the Sewa river near Bo) and 82 metres (over the Wannje river in Bandajuma) and the construction of a brand new bridge of 160m over the Moa river to replace the existing ferry close to Zimmi. We expect this project to significantly improve access of citizens to health and education services and generate direct employment in the region throughout the period of works and beyond. It will also facilitate access to markets and boost trade between Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The project includes accompanying measures for the communities along the road in order to enhance its socio-economic impact at local level and to mitigate the impact of the construction works.
Gender is a particular concern of the project as the employment of women will be monitored and the contractor is therefore encouraged to employ women including in qualified jobs. Youth employment will also be strongly favoured with a trainee programme to allow 36 junior engineers or technicians to get practical experience on the field (also with an objective of gender balance). In total, it is expected that some 700 direct jobs will be created as well as a greater amount of indirect employment.
I take this opportunity to encourage the Sierra Leonean authorities to protect and maintain this transportation infrastructure and ensure that the people of Sierra Leone benefit to the maximum from this major investment. Sustainable infrastructure requires appropriate governance structures and the associated implementation of policy reforms. This includes adequately funding and putting in place thee necessary road maintenance as well as urgently approving the applying the recently finalised law for axle load control.
In addition, the EU counts on the goodwill of all authorities to carry out the necessary relocations and expropriations in an efficient and fair manner in order to avoid unnecessary delays and tensions with the communities along the road and thus ensure a smooth project implementation.
In conclusion, this event marks the importance of the country's development agenda, the Agenda for Prosperity, as the principal vehicle for achieving the sustainable economic and social development of the country. Thank you.